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Context of 'Late September 2001: Observer Wonders about Priority of Economic Interests and Manhattan Residents’ Health'

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Joel Shufro, Executive Director of the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health, questions whether federal, state, and city officials are putting economic interests ahead of the health of New York Lower Manhattan residents and WTC rescue and recovery workers. He comments: “The agencies have made it a priority to get the lower Manhattan financial and stock markets up and running at any cost. In so doing, they have allowed thousands of people to be exposed to substances that haven’t even all been identified, let alone quantified.” [St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 1/13/2002]

Entity Tags: Joel Shufro

Timeline Tags: Environmental Impact of 9/11

Approximately 1,500 concerned downtown New York City residents skeptical of EPA assurances that the city air is safe to breathe meet in a Wall Street hotel lobby with a group of local officials to discuss the issue of air quality. Joel A. Miele Sr., the city’s commissioner of environmental protection, tells the New York Times that the government believes residents’ concerns are unfounded. [New York Times, 10/6/2001]

Entity Tags: Joel A. Miele Sr.

Timeline Tags: Environmental Impact of 9/11

Joel A. Miele, Sr., commissioner of the city’s Department of Environmental Protection, claims his agency has “bent over backwards to be as conservative as possible in our testing… and there is no significant danger” to anyone’s health. “People are safe, not just at the site, but at the perimeters,” he adds. [Newsday, 10/26/2003 pdf file]

Entity Tags: New York City Department of Environmental Protection, Joel A. Miele Sr.

Timeline Tags: Environmental Impact of 9/11

Several government experts testify at a New York City Council meeting on environmental conditions following the collapse of the World Trade Center towers. [New York Daily News, 11/1/2001] Kathleen Callahan, deputy regional director of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), insists that New Yorkers living and working near the World Trade Center site are not in danger. “The vast majority of our tests find levels of these contaminants pose no significant long term health risks to residents, business employees and visitors beyond Ground Zero,” she says, repeating what earlier EPA statements have asserted. Downplaying the danger of those areas where higher asbestos levels have been found, she states—falsely (see April 18, 1989) (see October 3, 2001-March 1, 2004) —that “EPA and Occupational Safety and Health Administration standards are set many times below the level at which you would expect health impacts.” She advises New Yorkers who live or work in the affected areas to “follow the recommendations of the New York City Departments of Health and Environmental Protection on how to clean up properly (see September 17, 2001).” [Environmental Protection Agency, 11/1/2001] Another expert, Dr. Jessica Leighton, assistant city health commissioner for environmental risk assessment, similarly states that people living and working in Lower Manhattan have little to worry about. She says in response to a question whether or not “people are safe at the present level” of contamination: “As far as the science has shown us right now, that is absolutely correct.” Like Callahan, she claims that EPA standards are overly protective. “The standards or tolerance levels that are being used are very conservative,” she claims. “For example, for asbestos, we are using the standard that is used for indoor air quality for reentry into a school after asbestos removal, which is the most stringent standard, as the tolerance level or standard for outdoor air quality in the residential areas. This is also true for other substances, such as dioxins, identified at the perimeter of the site…. Moreover, these standards have been designed to include many safety factors so that acceptable levels of exposure are far below the levels at which health effects are expected to occur.” [New York City Department of Health, 11/1/2001] Joel Kupferman, executive director of the New York Environmental Law and Justice Project, questions the accuracy of Leighton’s and Callahan’s statements and accuses them of withholding some test results. [New York Daily News, 11/1/2001] Kathryn Freed, a New York City Council Member who represents Lower Manhattan, said she was not convinced by agency assurances, noting that firemen are already showing symptoms of emphysema, a terminal disease for which there is no cure. “Just because it doesn’t reach a certain level is really irrelevant when people are sick,” says Marc Ameruso, a member of the area’s community board. [New York Daily News, 11/1/2001]

Entity Tags: Kathryn Freed, Joel R Kupferman, Kathleen Callahan, Jessica Leighton, PhD.

Timeline Tags: Environmental Impact of 9/11

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